Friday, October 9, 2020

Family Matters! A J/22 family report from Macatawa Bay, MI

 J/22 family sailboat sailing with children

“Mom, I can do this”! came the raised voice of our now 14-year-old daughter, Jenna.  She was on the bow of our J/22, USA 1552, Evil Dr. Pork Chop.  It was windy and rough, she was 12 at the time, but by God she completed the gybe by herself.  It made me think back to my youth, telling my father, “Dad, we can do this!” as my brother, Matt, and I were trying to launch Sunfish by ourselves off the beach at Tawas Bay yacht club.  We were growing and getting more confident in our abilities and wanted to do it ourselves.  Didn’t always work out as planned, as I recall, one or two times our dad and friend had to come rescue us out on the Bay ha!

Jennifer came from a sailing family; her parents owned a Lightning while she and her sister were growing up.  Jennifer would travel to regattas with her parents and eventually became part of the crew on the boat as her mother started to move away from the sailing part of it.

I came from a boating family. That is, a sailor trying to tell you his parents owned powerboats!  I was lucky in that I always had a mate with me, my twin brother, Matt.  Every weekend we would get in the station wagon with my family and head up to the old Chris Craft docked at the club in Tawas.  So, early in our youth we would fish and then when my folks bought a 13ft Boston Whaler, we got to speed around and fish out in the Bay instead of off the dock.  It was sailing though that kind of got into our minds.  Pretty soon we are sailing borrowed Sunfish against each other for hours every weekend and a couple of younger men at the club started inviting us out on their racing boats teaching us about racing.  We had to learn it on our own, there were no youth sailing programs or instructors, it was trial by error and there were a lot of those!

When Jennifer and I welcomed Jenna into the world, we never really talked much about it.  I think we both just thought we are taking her with us everywhere. And, we did, and that became the start of so many great memories centered around sailing and family.

Jenna came to us in February of 2006, but her first regatta was actually in the fall of 2005.  Jennifer carried her in her belly and dragged a little puppy name Summer along with our friends Ernie and Jaqueline to Whitby, Ontario where Cameron and Elaine Smith welcomed us into their home with Jennifer pregnant and Summer living in her crate.  I am pretty sure it was the Canadian J/22 Nationals that weekend.

J/22 youth sailors!From the very first May in 2006, we took her with us everywhere, and she was on a boat sailing before she was 4 months old.  She did a lot of sailing on our friends, Derek and Monica Carrol’s 35ft sailboat, they had a one year old and a pack'n'play.  We would put both kids in the pack'n'play and go sailing and they would roll around and have a blast.  As Jenna got older, we just kept bringing her with us.  By 2 years old, she was sailing on the J/22 as crew.  Well… as a distraction, ha!  We would race and she would go down in the v-berth and play.  I recall one particular windy day and I think Jenna might have been 3 or 4 years old and Jennifer and I were doublehanding the boat.  Because it was windy and wavy, we kept her in the cockpit with us.  Whenever she would get a little worried, we would get splashed with a wave and she would just giggle.  We got to the weather mark and just told her to sit on the cockpit floor north of the traveler as Jennifer and I got the spinnaker up and going.  Still one of our fondest memories!

J/22 regattas were great as we always got to see our friends and Jenna would be a little bigger each time.  A lot of our friends helped us out with places to stay and baby sitters if we needed them.  

Some of our favorite places we took Jenna were Lake Wayzata as a baby hanging out and, of course, Tawas Bay Yacht Club East, or as they like to call it…  Chris and Sue Doyle's cottage! The Doyle's were nice enough to let us stay there twice, thank you! And, the first time in 2010 we took Jenna to see Niagara Falls and Ernie and Jaqueline Dieball had their baby Dean with us.

So, kids grow, and pretty soon we have her trying to pull on lines on the J/22 and she is on the rail with Mom hiking.  By 6 years old she is trimming the spinnaker on light wind days, by 8 she is on the bow on light wind days.  Now at 14, it is her bow!"

In our J/22 fleet, we now have multiple kids racing on boats for the first time in a long time.  The J/22 is an ideal boat to teach a child on, low loads, very tactical and fun to sail!"  Thanks for this contribution from Chris Princing of Tawas Bay, MI.